White balance: Colour temperature,creative white balance and how to set white balance
October 5, 2018

White balance is the setting in the camera by which you can convey to the camera how to perceive the colour white. You may have used several image editing applications. The white balance option is always present in the application, no matter how basic or simple that application is. This tells us the significance of white balance. White balance is used to control the temperature of the image and in the process controls the mood of the image too. You may have seen that when you push the slider to the right, the yellowish tones in the image become more prominent. When you push the slider in the opposite direction, the bluish tones come into prominence. The yellow or orange tones in the image are known as warm colours while the bluish tones are called cool colours. Let us take a look at the different aspects of white balance and how to master this concept.


1)   Shooting in RAW:

The most common way to tackle the white balance problem is to shoot in raw mode and set the white balance to auto. The camera normally does a good job in auto white balance till the point where there are a lot of light fluctuations. If you are shooting in raw all the time, you will have complete control over the white balance aspect of the image during post processing. You may go ahead and set the white balance to auto and forget about it. But in case you want to achieve perfection, you need to set the white balance manually. In the points to follow, we will take a look at how to do that and why.

2) Setting the white balance:

In the basic entry level dslr cameras, you will have to use the white balance presets available to you. Each preset is denoted by a specific icon. You need to remember these icons in order to operate faster. Continuous practice will actually help you do that. The presets are namely Auto White Balance, Daylight (approx. 5200K), Cloudy (6000K), Shade (7000K), Tungsten (3000K) etc. Note that each preset is followed by a temperature in Kelvin. The more the Kelvin value the more the white balance required. You need to understand the concept of white balance here. You need to judge the approximate colour temperature of the place you are shooting in. If there are a lot of bluish tungsten colours, the approximate colour temperature of the place is going to be around 3000K. Set the white balance to 3000K in order to get the actual whites. If you want the warm tones in your image, you should increase that value to around 3500-4000K. In case you want the bluish feel to be more prominent, decrease the temperature further to around 2500K.

3) Creative white balance:

In the world of photography, creativity is a must. You need to be creative about each and everything. Once you master a certain aspect of your photography, it is time to actually start challenging yourself to break those barriers. Creative white balance may seem to go over the top but when used effectively, can change the entire look and feel of the image. For example, if you are shooting during sunrise, a white balance of around 5000K should be normal. Let us push that white balance down to 4000K. You will straightaway notice the cool tones in the image. The cool tones can lend a very lonely and mysterious feeling to the image. On the contrary if we push the white balance up to 8000K, the orange tones will become much more prominent and will provide a very warm feel to the photograph. Even this looks quite beautiful. Thus even though you are shooting the images at the same time, you can bring about a drastic change in the mood of the image just by manipulating the white balance. Get creative with the white balance and do not be afraid to experiment. The best way to learn white balance is actually by experimenting. Shoot a set of images at the same time and just alter the white balance in each of them. Analyze which image looks best to you and you will get an idea of the white balance setting when you are out shooting the next time.

4) Custom white balance:

This is a very interesting feature of our cameras. Even the entry level dslr cameras have this feature. Custom white balance is a way to tell the camera what your actual white should look like. There are white balance cards available in the market. Get hold of those and choose the custom white balance option in the cameras. The camera will actually take a photograph of the white balance card and use it as a reference for the future images. This is quite crucial especially if you are shooting images of products. The actual colour representation becomes extremely crucial in product photography since you won’t be able to replicate the exact colours in post processing if you haven’t captured them properly in the first place. Even if you are a beginner in photography, I will recommend you to use the custom white balance in order to learn the concept properly.

White balance is one of the basic pillars of photography. Although it can be controlled in post processing if you are shooting in raw, it is always better to get it right in the camera itself. What if you are not able to shoot in raw for a particular event? If you do not have the idea of white balance, you will struggle throughout the event since the auto white balance of the camera may not be perfect throughout. Let us take an example of an indoor party. The colours are of different temperatures. The fluctuations of these temperatures can trick the auto white balance of the camera. You need to take control of the white balance here. White balance determines the mood of the image and it is a must in story telling images. Learn the concept of white balance by operating in manual mode and you will be able to master another pillar of photography.

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